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Family's reigning queen of words being challenged by next generation

by Tribune News Service | August 27, 2022 at 10:00 p.m.

For years, I have I been the hands-down queen of words in the Hook family.

This is not about Wordle. This is not a function of proficiency in the here-today-gone-tomorrow five-letter word game WHICH has only been around SINCE William Shatner went into SPACE in October.

Rather my role has been long in the making, beginning with spelling-bee crowns in third grade and an early and obnoxious ability to correct bad grammar before it's uttered.

It is begot of 450-word Scrabble scores, which started innocently in my earlier days with nine-point words like "cat" and developed into the 72-point "catatonic." I never much knew what a triple-word score was. Now I never give one up without copious sweat.

I am also a crossword puzzle fiend who carries a thesaurus in her head, and the loud one in the room who sweeps/kills/bests the word categories on "Jeopardy!"

I write (silly) poems for all occasions.

"Whatever you do," I wrote to my niece on Valentine's Day, "I hope it's worth it.

That most things you do in life are fun.

That's not always possible, of course.

At least you'll have barbecue in a bun."

She does, after all, live in Memphis, the disputable/arguable/questionable/capital of the barbecue world.

I also make up words, which sometimes get adopted by the family.

"Pass me the 'bloop bloop'" has become a mainstay when it's too hard to remember the name of the item, as well used as "He's being so flabbertyglabberty" when someone is being irritating.

At some points, my interest in words might be deemed amusing/cheery/engaging.

"What if clouds were yellow instead of white," I wrote in a poem I named/christened/dubbed/designated "Ode to Jabberwocky."

"And the sky were green instead of azurite?

What if the sea were red and mushrooms took the place of beach umbrellas?

Would you still love me if I were a fella?

What if elephants could fly and birds were dogs?

What if otters could talk and hippos were frogs?

What if the world turned right side up and ice cream cones upside down?

Would we still walk with our feet on the ground?"

At other points, I might be considered obnoxious/annoying/overbearing. Like when I try to tell my sister that the correct direct object in a particular sentence is "You and me," not "you and I," as in "She irritates the heck out of you and me."

No one will come within a mile/furlong/chain of me and a Boggle board.

Which may be why it's a good thing I'm losing ground to my eldest child. He doesn't just complete the Sunday New York Times puzzle. He wrote two of his own. He is also edging awfully close to those triple-letter Scrabble scores and even, on occasion, winning outright.

Every generation, they say, is smarter/nimbler/brighter/than the one before.

I still have the gene for the words, wrought of my mother who kept copious journals and also wrote poetry.

He has the gene -- my gene, mind you -- and also the edgy/snarky/irascible strategy of a millennial. Now he seems earmarked/appropriated/designated The Next Chosen One, which means I either get super sweaty passing the TORCH. Or I find GRACE.

"There comes a time when it be said

The gray is going into the head.

We must reverently step aside.

Or at least applaud,

Them who stood behind us, watching."

OK, maybe not Scrabble though.

From cat to catatonic, I worked too hard for that TITLE.

There will be SWEAT.

(Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, Ohio, has been writing about family life since 1988. Visit her website at; email her at [email protected], or join her column's Facebook discussion group at Debra-Lynn Hook: Bringing Up Mommy.)

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